Tutorial Thursday 55 – Coaches as role models

„We don’t need fitness models as athletic coaches!“

That was one of the claims made by Manuel Ruep at last year’s Athletikkonferenz (athletic conference) in Bonn.

Why he is right when he says that athletic looks are nothing to neglect in the fitness business, though, will be the topic of this week’s Tutorial Thursday.

Tutorial Thursday 55 - Coaches as role models

aerobis was one of the exhibitors at last year’s Athletikkonferenz, the first one of its kind and organized by recognized sport scientist Robert Heiduk and our good friends at pullsh, and also organized a workshop. The emphasis of this event was clearly on the diverse lectures of several athletic coaches, sport officials, and speakers from different professional sports.One of the speakers was Manuel Ruep, experienced athletic coach and manager of Trainingzone GmbH. The aforementioned quote is from his lecture about the pros and cons of CrossFit in athletic training for soccer.

His sentence resonated with me and I have now had quite some time to think about it. What did he want to say?

Are your looks a manifestation of your expertise?

To pick up from our recent blog post about muscle growth: there are so many fitness coaches, fitness enthusiasts, and/or hobby bodybuilders that distinguish themselves by their muscles and see them as some kind of justification to claim their competence. As if their muscles made their training tips more meaningful. But do we need that? Does a bodybuilding coach have to weigh 120 kg in order for his protege to be able to win the Arnold Classics? Does a personal trainer have to have a six pack in order for their clients to reach their goals? Does an athletic coach have to look like he is one of the players he is supposed to train?

Not really…

Coach or fitness model?

What about the role model function?

Wait! Somehow they do, though.

Or would you buy a prevention package from an employee of a health insurance if that employee looks like he collects risk factors like overweight and smoking like they were rare stamps? The discussion about the Belgian minister of health, Maggie De Block, goes in a similar direction. It has something to do with authenticity.

No, you don’t have to be a fitness model in this job, but a role model. A certain athletic look makes you more credible as a coach. In the end, it is important that you have experienced or regularly practise what you preach.

In my personal training sessions I notice it every time that clients need some kind of incentive. An idol or something like that they can follow and aspire to become themselves. And often times, that’s the coach…

So when I step in front of a soccer team all the players are guaranteed to be much better than me. Ultimately, that is what they make their money with. But when I explain and show the functional exercises I have to excel with knowledge and performance. As an athletic coach (and in all the other fields of training), I should be able to do the specific workout session myself at that moment. Form follows function… and then my clients follow me! The coach shouldn’t just be theoretically sound but practically as well.

Tutorial Thursday 55 - aeroSling Coaching

Top of the class in biceps curls

Unfortunately, many of today’s self-proclaimed experts have a wrong understanding of the aforementioned principle and have only a muscle diploma to show. Following the motto: ‘Listen to me! I was on the school for hypertrophy and majored in biceps curls and bench presses.’ Final grade: A-.

How nice! Of course, you have spent many hours of hard (and hopefully honest) work and masses of protein on your biceps. But why should you be seen as an reputable coach? Because you spend more time on your training equipment that all our clients combined?

Well, I gotta say: we don’t need fitness models as coaches! And especially no coaches that try to create attention for their services by posting topless pictures of themselves on Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram.

At the same time, however, you are equally less credible if you spend all your time in front of books, research and publicize, design great training plans, and give a detailed biomechanic analysis of the target movement of a certain sport but can’t do one pull-up. Who do you want to train if you can’t even lift your own bodyweight from the ground?

What do you think? How important are looks in a job in the fitness industry?

And remember,
get functional!
Your Fabien

Author: Fabien Mpouma

Fabien is bachelor of arts sportscience (DSHS) and since his studies he is working in the sector of health- and rehabilitation sports. He was course instructor for several institutions in the field of rehabilitation and mental and physical disease. He has a lot of experience in prevention with adults, youths, and children. He worked as regional manager for Outdoor Gym and now as a Personal Trainer and Foodcoach. Since 2014 he is Manager for Training & Education and Head Coach for aerobis. In 2016 he opened his own facility for Personal- and Grouptraining in his hometown Siegburg. Stay in contact with Fabien by sending him an email

4 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Steffi.brehmen@funcfit.de'
    Steffi 13. August 2015 at 8:00 PM #

    Ich finde schon, dass ich als Trainer auch danach aussehen sollte, dass man Ziele erreichen kann und dass ich meine eigenen Vorgaben in Sachen Sport und Ernährung auch selbst befolge. Und wie schon im Artikel beschrieben, sollte ich auch die Übungen, die ich Coache selber perfekt beherrschen. Alleine durch das Training dieser technisch sauberen Ausführung von bspw. Klimmzügen lässt den eigenen Körper nicht so schlecht darstehen 😉

    Natürlich ist das aber nicht das wichtigste und einzige mit dem ein guter Trainer Punkten sollte. Sympathie und Vertrauen sind wichtige Cues, die ich in der Kundenbeziehung wichtig finde. Mit posen und angeben verschafft man sich das nicht. Ein Trainer sollte Idol sein, was den Körper, aber auch das Verhalten angeht. Und hier finde ich wichtig auf dem Boden zu bleiben. Es gibt wichtigeres als Muskeln 😉
    Die Frage ist, wie man damit umgeht.
    Umgekehrt finde ich es allerdings ein No Go, wenn man als Trainer übergewichtig ist und raucht.

  2. thehighflyingbird@web.de'
    Michael 16. August 2015 at 4:30 PM #

    Hi Fabien,
    wenn ich zum Friseur gehe, ist es mir ehrlich gesagt egal was für eine Frisur der Friseur hat, so lange er fachlich kompetent meine Haar schneiden kann, gebe ich mich vertrauensvoll in seine Hände.
    In der Fitnessbranche kann man aber nicht bestreiten, dass die Trainer als kompetenter wahrgenommen werden, die den dickeren Bizeps haben, obwohl ihr Trainingserfolg manchmal mehr Genetik und fragwürdigen Substanzen zuzuschreiben ist als ihrem Expertenwissen.
    Der optimale Trainer überzeugt halt durch beides: Ahnung vom Fach und einem Körper der Kunden neidisch werden lässt.
    Gruß Micha

  3. Fabien Mpouma 17. August 2015 at 9:38 AM #

    Hallo Micha,
    da sind wir ja einer Meinung.
    Das Beispiel mit dem Friseur ist eigentlich ganz gut.
    Du wirst immer und immer wieder zu ihm gehen, weil er deine Bedürfnisse versteht
    und die Haare nach deinen Vorstellungen schneidet. Er stellt Dich also zufrieden.
    Das ist auch das wichtigste bei einem Trainer!

  4. Fabien Mpouma 17. August 2015 at 9:40 AM #

    Hallo Steffi, danke für deine Sicht der Dinge.
    Es geht halt um das Gesamtpaket! Aber am wichtigsten ist wirklich immer das Zwischenmenschliche!
    Sympathie und Vertrauen. So wie Du es schon beschrieben hast…
    Viele Grüße aus Köln nach köln 😉

Leave a Reply